Mandela Calls on European Union To Match U.S. Contribution to HIV/AIDS Fight; European Commission Says No New Funds
Speaking at the International AIDS Society's 2nd Conference on Pathogenesis and Treatment yesterday in Paris, former South African President Nelson Mandela called on Europe to "match Washington's commitment to fighting AIDS," Reuters/Boston Globe reports. Mandela lauded President Bush for his global AIDS initiative, adding that Bush has "move[d] the debate from hundreds of millions of dollars to tens of billions." Mandela said that, "[g]iven the size of its collective population and economy, Europe should at least be matching if not exceeding the United States' contribution" (Hirschler/Sithole, Reuters/Boston Globe, 7/15). Bush in May signed into a law a five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative (HR 1298). The initiative seeks to prevent seven million new HIV infections, provide care for 10 million people living with the disease and provide treatment to two million HIV-positive people. The House so far has approved a little more than $2 billion for international AIDS efforts for fiscal year 2004. The Senate on Thursday approved 78-18 a nonbinding resolution calling for $3 billion in FY 2004 to fight AIDS overseas, even if the amount exceeds the ceiling mandated in Congress' annual budget resolution (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14). Mandela said, "By all accounts we are dealing with the greatest health crisis in human history. By all measures we have failed in our quest to contain and treat this scourge" (Ross, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/15). "[W]e have failed to translate our scientific progress into action where it is most needed, in the developing world. This is the global injustice which can't be tolerated. It is a travesty of human rights on a global scale," Mandela said.
Mandela also said that he had hoped more of the U.S. funds would be channeled to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, London's Guardian reports (Boseley, Guardian, 7/15). The global AIDS bill authorizes $3 billion a year for five years to international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in FY 2004 going to the Global Fund. However, the amount of funding actually appropriated may be less than $1 billion and is contingent upon the contributions of other countries. Under the measure, the United States can contribute up to $1 billion to the fund only if that amount totals no more than one-third of the fund's total contributions. Therefore, in order for the total $1 billion to be appropriated, other nations must contribute more money (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14). However, European Union officials said that its 15 member countries are already "doing more" than the United States in fighting the disease, Reuters/Globe reports. The E.U. said that its members have pledged a total of $2.37 billion to the Global Fund. European Commission spokesperson Jean-Charles Ellermann said, "We are not going to be putting new money on the table" (Reuters/Boston Globe, 7/15). Mandela said, "We, the people of Africa, will follow the delivery of this critical commitment with great interest" (Ingham, Agence France-Presse, 7/14). Global Fund donors are set to meet in Paris tomorrow, the Reuters/Globe reports (Reuters/Boston Globe, 7/15).
Mandela also praised the efforts of Senegal, Uganda and Botswana to fight AIDS, but he said that he had "grave concerns" about the growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in India, China and Russia, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/15). Bush on Saturday concluded a five-day tour of Africa that included stops in Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Botswana and Nigeria. Bush praised Botswana's universal antiretroviral drug program and Uganda's "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/10). According to the United Nations, China had between 800,000 and 1.5 million HIV-positive people by December 2001, and that number could grow to 10 million by 2010. In India, the government estimates that four million people are living with HIV, but a U.S. study released last year predicted that there would be between 20 million and 25 million HIV-positive Indians by 2010. CDC Director Julie Gerberding said on July 3 that China and India, the world's two most populous nations, are facing an AIDS "catastrophe" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/3). Currently, 1% of Russians ages 15 to 49 are HIV-positive, but the World Bank estimates that the percentage could rise to 6% by 2010, making Russia's AIDS epidemic one of the fastest growing in the world (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/10). "If [these countries] follow the trend of Africa, the result will be calamitous -- not only for the countries concerned but for the whole world," Mandela said. He pointed out that access to antiretroviral therapy is the "most striking inequality" between the developed and the developing world, adding, "The single most important step we must now take is to provide access to treatment throughout the developing world. We must act now for the sake of the world" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/15).
A kaisernetwork.org video feature on AIDS in India is available online.
About one dozen protesters disrupted the conference during a standing ovation after Mandela's speech, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The demonstrators held up a protest banner reading "AIDS donors' lies kill," and they chanted, "Treat the six million -- where's the 10 billion?" referring to the number of people with HIV who do not have access to antiretrovirals and the estimated $10 billion needed annually to combat the pandemic (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/14). According to Agence France-Presse, Mandela "read the banner, and a gigantic smile broke out on his face" (Agence France-Presse, 7/14). Gaelle Krikorian, vice president of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP/Paris, went onto the stage to speak with Mandela (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/14). Mandela, clapping along with the protestors' chants, beckoned her to join him, putting his arm around her (Agence France-Presse, 7/14). Krikorian said, "I told [Mandela] we need your backing, we need your help. We are at a critical moment," adding that Mandela said he supported the advocates' efforts (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/14).
A webcast of Mandela's speech is available online from kaisernetwork.org.
Channel Africa's "Dateline Africa," a daily news broadcast from Johannesburg and London, today reported on the conference and Mandela's address. The segment includes comments from Mandela, a partnership official from the Global Fund and a Ugandan HIV activist ("Dateline Africa," Channel Africa, 7/15). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer. The report on the conference is approximately 11 minutes into the audio clip and may only be available for one day after the broadcast.
Additional Sessions To Be Webcast
As the official IAS conference webcaster, kaisernetwork.org will provide webcasts and other resources for all six of the conference plenary sessions, as well as other selected sessions. More information on the conference webcasts is available online at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/paris2003.